Man rescued after ordeal in the Uintas
July 15, 2008
A 61-year-old man survived being lost for two days in the Uinta Mountains as temperatures dropped into the 30s.
Searchers located John Youngerman hiking below Kings Peak, which is the highest point in Utah at 13,528 feet.
Hikers reported the Springfield, Ohio man missing Friday at 9 p.m. He was located at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
"By Saturday, we had a full complement of search-and-rescue operators in the forest looking for Mr. Youngerman," Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said.
People from the East are sometimes not prepared to hike at 13,000 feet, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said.
"That’s much different than hiking say, the Appalachian Mountains," Edmunds said. "We want people to be safe, we want them to recreate, but we also want them to understand just how dangerous the Uintas can be, and they certainly have claimed lives."
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Youngerman said he survived by not panicking.
"I didn’t appreciate the wilds of the Uinta country, and maybe that was a good thing," Youngerman told reporters Monday. "When it was told to me how bad it was up there, I was thinking, this could be a bad thing."
Searchers still haven’t found missing Utah County resident Garrett Bardsley, who was last seen in the Uinta Mountains at age 12, fishing with his father near Mirror Lake Aug. 20, 2004.
"The predicament that [Youngerman] was in up in the High Uintas, is not unusual, Edmunds explained. "When you go to the high country you have to take precautionary measures so we don’t have to have multi-day searches, and we are well known for those up here."
Youngerman said he munched mostly on crackers and candy bars during his two-day ordeal.
"I was dressed well," he said about long underwear, a windbreaker and extra socks he carried with him. "I tried not to get upset and tried to think my way out of the situations."
Youngerman said he tried to regain his bearings by spotting Kings Peak from the same perspective he had at his campsite near Dollar Lake.
"I found Kings Peak, but unfortunately I had a whole day’s worth of travel to get over to where I could see Kings Peak in the right perspective," he said.
Youngerman reached the top of the peak and was not lost until he had completed most of the steep hike.
"I was with five hikers from Layton and I went up with them," he said. "I was in the middle and that’s when I got lost."
Instead of returning to his tent, Youngerman walked the opposite direction into Painter Basin.
"I was thinking about my wife and my family and the anxiety I caused because of my own mistake," he said.
Kings Peak sits about 79 miles east of Salt Lake City in Duchesne County near the Summit County line.
"They can talk about Mount Whitney, but this is tough," Youngerman said about the rocky terrain.
The first night, the man said he slept inside a log. He had extra gloves and three pairs of socks.
"I had frost on my knees," Youngerman said. "I put my shirt up over my head and breathed into my chest to try to keep my body warm."
His wife flew to Utah when she learned he was lost.
"I’d hoped I could get out without causing such a furor," Youngerman said.
The man has hiked in about 43 states.
"If I didn’t have the right clothes on, I think I might have frozen up there," Youngerman said. "It’s a forsaken territory."
Searchers found the fit, 170-pound retired auto worker in good condition. Youngerman suffered only scratches. He used a purifier to drink stagnant water in the woods.
"The highest hill we have in Ohio might get to 1,000 feet. That’s not called a hill or a mountain out here," Youngerman said. "As well as I planned this hike mistakes can happen even if you’re a good hiker."
"Be well aware of the dangers before you start out I know the dangers now," he said.